FULL TEXT: New York – When Samuel Gompers was alive, his wife was just a good wife who believed that the most important job she possibly could hold lay in making a comfortable and attractive home for the crusading leader of America’s organized labor.
But he died in 1924, and now Mrs. Samuel Gompers has begun to carve her own niche in the reformation corner of the hall of fame. More able hands than hers, she knew, had taken of labor where her left it. So she cast about for some other social problem to work on, and decided on divorce. So now you’ll find her championing the principles of the National Divorce Reform League, an organization if about 1,000 members which recently absorbed the National Sociological League in a drive for liberalized divorce and alimony laws.
~ Touched by Unhappiness ~
Out of a long and serene domestic life, Mrs. Gompers has launched herself into the scene of other people’s marital bickering, penury, acrimony and alimony. She doesn’t know just why she first espoused “the cause,” except that she was touched by stories she heard here and there of unhappiness and injustice.
She believes that all states should have divorce laws as closely unified as possible. And that new laws should be aimed at “alimony swindlers” and the indefinite confinement of men in “alimony jails.”
“I get letters from women all over the country charging me with being a traitor to my sex,” Mrs. Gompers said. Her young face, under a cloud of snow-white hair, into a smile. “Well, I’m certainly an enemy of gold-diggers, if what that's what they mean.
~ Pities Men’s Plight ~
“I’m of the also in sympathy with many men whose business careers and private lives now are being ruined by the alimony jail system.
Under the present law in New York State, for instance, a woman can jail a man for non payment of alimony, whether or not he is able to pay. While he is in jail his indebtedness continues to pile up.
When his sentence is served, if he still has no money, he can be rearrested.”
The National Divorce Reform League is working on a definite program of introducing reform bills in the state legislatures. Those for New York State, which may be voted on this fall, provide:
1. That no alimony shall accrue while a man is serving time in prison for not paying alimony.
2. That no alimony shall be awarded, until the litigants have had a trial in Supreme Court, or a hearing before a referee named by the court. (Alimony now is awarded on the basis of evidence submitted in affidavits.)
3. No alimony shall be awarded to any childless wife below the age of 25. (This is intended to prevent gold-digging by ambitious young women who may be planning on alimony even before they are married.)
4. Legal separation of a man and wife for five years shall constitute ground for divorce. (Adultery is the only cause now recognized by law in New York.)
~ Seeks More Liberal Laws ~
“You can see” explained Mrs. Gompers, “that the league is really not reactionary, but only wants to effect some of the most needed reforms. I’m personally in favor of more liberal laws, and I think mere incompatibility is just cause for divorce.”
“When two people learn that they just can’t bear the sight of each other, they ought not have to. There should be an amicable settlement, with reasonable protection for the wife and child.”
[“She is a Foe of the Gold-Diggers - Samuel Gompers’ Widow Turns from a Life Of Domesticity To Champion Divorce Reform,” syndicated (NEA), Jul. 24, 1932, Clubs & Parties section, p. 1]